How to maximize impact with a small marketing team

While larger schools may be able to outspend in comparison, it remains essential that smaller schools ensure technology improvements remain top of mind.
Bryan Mahoney and Jon Stewart
Bryan Mahoney and Jon Stewart
Bryan Mahoney is the associate vice president of integrated marketing at Emmanuel College, a private Roman Catholic college located in Boston, Mass. Jon Stewart is the president and co-founder of ZenSource, an enterprise-grade open-source platform offering a Drupal-based CMS & secure cloud hosting platform.

Operating as a smaller marketing team in higher education doesn’t mean expectations or responsibilities are scaled down. If anything, a small marketing team often faces greater challenges when it comes to keeping pace, whether that means budgets, staffing or technology resources. For this reason, it’s imperative that the team’s time and energy stay laser-focused on the things that will provide the largest return on investment and drive the institution forward.

To compete effectively in the higher education landscape, small marketing teams must shed the traditional marketing-as-a-service-provider model and lean in on the idea of elevating your marketing maturity to ensure you’re evolving alongside the needs of your institution. The key to this is two-fold: investing in technology and leveraging strategic partnerships.

The first part is investing in marketing technology, or martech for short. Technology serves as the backbone that connects various groups within higher education institutions to scale and optimize marketing efforts effectively. It enables content syndication across institution websites, apps, email marketing and social media from one central administration experience.

While larger schools may be able to outspend in comparison, it remains essential that smaller schools ensure technology improvements remain top of mind. Work internally to develop a multi-year digital technology roadmap so you can make improvements to your overall strategy year-over-year. Tackle this with an ecosystem mindset to ensure you’re looking at the bigger picture of how your systems work together.

For example, at Emmanuel College, we recognized the need to be nimbler when it came to our content management system (CMS). Our previous proprietary system had become so limiting that we simply could not maintain it without significant in-house expertise. By migrating to ZenSource, an open-source CMS, we could draw from a deeper well of experts and resources.

Open-source solutions excel in three key areas: they provide a cost-efficient martech foundation, they allow endless customization and scalability, and they offer a vast library of modules and accelerators from a global community of developers to aid institutional growth. Combining this foundation with secure cloud hosting and a focus on user data security creates a nimble platform capable of quickly addressing marketing challenges in higher education.

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When you dovetail cost-effective martech with a community of free web accelerators, it inevitably frees up time, budget and resources to focus on the most pressing challenges – without having to constantly maintain proprietary martech.

For those seeking to integrate technology into their marketing approach, the following three steps are crucial.

  1. Conduct a martech audit: Start with a comprehensive assessment to consolidate various tools and licenses in one place.
  2. Conduct a CMS assessment: Develop requirements for your CMS based on current and future needs. Look deeper into finding ways where a CMS solution can potentially replace more of the above-noted tools and licenses. Evaluate CMS solutions based on costs, features, extensibility and total cost of ownership.
  3. Use technology consolidation to create brand consistency: Even when educational institutions are leveraging common martech platforms, they often fail to streamline their experience and brand story effectively. To optimize the use of martech, institutions should consolidate brand content and features into a single central instance.

As marketing becomes increasingly omni-channel, the ability to write and publish content from one place across multiple channels will be critical. CMS platforms will need to continue to streamline processes and enhance marketing effectiveness by continuously removing friction from the content publishing experience and integrating AI into authoring tools.

Additionally, as the number of channels and devices where marketing is consumed increases and becomes more sophisticated, so will the amount and sophistication of cybersecurity attacks. Security will need to be a paramount concern in terms of cloud hosting and being proactive to remain compliant with ever-changing regulations in the education industry.

In tandem with prioritizing technology investments, strategic partnerships with external organizations can serve as a vital extension of your in-house capabilities. While you may have a strong internal team, outsourcing areas like data analytics, marketing technology and web development to trusted vendors allows your in-house team to focus on telling great stories and being seen as on-campus advisors. This collective approach emphasizes strengths and addresses weaknesses, keeping you competitive.

When it comes to marketing, it is impossible to know everything. Committing to learning and growing is a valuable quality—one that will continue to pay dividends as you peel back the marketing onion. In turn, partnering with an organization that will help educate you and look out for your best interest is also critically important.


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